The Vermont Department of Economic Development announced that Brittany Nevins had been hired as the Captive Insurance Economic Development Director for the State of Vermont in September 2020. In her position, Nevins will direct the marketing and business development efforts of the Vermont captive insurance industry. Nevins replaces Ian Davis, who left his position earlier this year.
Vermont is the largest domestic captive domicile, and trails only Bermuda and the Cayman Islands internationally. Vermont is also the leading domicile for risk retention groups, with over 70 domiciled risk retention groups representing over $2 billion in gross written premium.
Prior to coming on at the Vermont Department of Economic Development, Nevins managed the Travis County economic incentive program in Austin, Texas. Nevins also worked as a policy specialist at the State of Texas, where she supported regulatory services for long term care facilities.
Nevins has also spent time in Latin America and is fluent in Spanish. “We are excited about Brittany’s international experience as Vermont seeks to expand further into the Latin American markets,” said Richard Smith, President of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA), in a press release.
The Risk Retention Reporter reached out to Nevins to discuss her goals for the Vermont Captive Industry in 2021, the challenges of COVID-19, and the opportunities that the hard market may provide for captives and risk retention groups.
What drew you to the captive industry?
I have a passion for supporting businesses as drivers of economic growth. The captive insurance industry caught my eye as a successful industry in Vermont, one that supports businesses of various sizes and industries and contributes to the Vermont economy at the same time. Beyond that, I really appreciate the foundational sense of innovation and collaboration that is within the captive industry. Vermont acts as a leader, while also works to improve the broader industry, which I found admirable. The more I learned the more I wanted to be involved.
You’ve come on during a fairly turbulent time for the country and for the captive industry as well. As we hopefully come out of the pandemic in 2021, what are some of the goals you’re looking to achieve? Will Vermont be looking into restarting some of the prior initiatives, such as the captive delegation to Mexico, that the pandemic put on hold?
This has been such a challenging time for all industries and the impact has been felt differently. Our goals have largely remained the same, but the way these goals are carried out looks different in some cases in a global pandemic. We aim to continue to provide the “Gold Standard” of regulation in Vermont to make captive business formations, transitions, and challenges as smooth as they can be. The Vermont Captive Insurance Association, with input from the Department of Financial Regulation, will put forward a legislative bill as they do every year to modernize captive statutes and regulations to keep pace with the changing needs of the industry.
While our in-person trade mission to Mexico was cancelled due to COVID-19, we were able to participate in a virtual trade mission with Mexico led by the VCIA this past fall and have continued our efforts to reach international markets. One example of this is our intentional effort to raise awareness about Vermont in Central and Latin America through targeted business outreach and the creation of outreach materials available in Spanish. We still have a plan to do an in-person trade mission to Mexico, planned for the fall of 2021 at this time.
Additionally, I have heard anecdotally from a variety of professionals in the captive industry that there are significant age and diversity gaps. I have joined the Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA’s) NextGen Committee to engage with young professionals in the industry to begin to learn where these gaps are surfacing and see how Vermont can work to tackle this challenge. One example of a way we have begun to address this is with a goal to spotlight emerging leaders and innovative work that is being done in the Vermont captive community.
Coupled with the pandemic, the insurance industry has also entered a hard market. What opportunities does that afford for the captive industry and risk retention groups?
This hard market of decreased availability, increased cost, and tightened terms and conditions of commercial insurance has and will push more businesses to explore the alternative market. Likely we will continue to see new formations of captives well into 2021 as a result. Currently Vermont has licensed 37 new captives in 2020, with that number growing as we close out the year.
When it comes to Risk Retention Groups (RRGs), the impact is not yet clear. However, the current market is a stark reminder of why RRGs were formed in the first place and confirmation of the value and purpose of RRGs. Therefore, they might expect improved member retention or new members coming in during the hard market and we may see an increase in formations in the coming year.
The VCIA conference, as one of the largest captive conferences, is a major entry point into the captive industry for many businesses. With both the 2020 and 2021 conferences moving to a virtual platform, what steps is the Vermont captive industry taking to reach out to businesses that may have traditionally been funneled through the in-person conference?
Like all organizations, we have had to adjust the way we do business safely during a global pandemic. Many adjustments we have had to make have been positive and will likely continue beyond the pandemic. It’s not clear how much we have missed out on, but we do know we have made some important shifts that have worked out well for us.
Normally, my role would conduct a variety of business on the road at various conferences, trade shows, and networking events. While certainly we are missing out on tried-and-true recruitment efforts, technology has allowed me to conduct a handful of meetings throughout the day with folks from around the world, something that could not have been done so efficiently prior to the pandemic. With new technological tools I am able to connect interested businesses with our regulatory team quickly to get their questions answered and start the process of determining if Vermont is the right fit for the company’s needs, all virtually.
Given that an in person, face to face interaction is not possible, we have tried to bring the face of our expert regulatory staff to the industry and business community virtually. We have participated in a variety of webinars, podcasts, and article contributions. We have begun our own thought leadership blog to discuss hot topics in the industry and bring greater awareness to the work we do in Vermont. Next year Vermont will celebrate its 40th anniversary since the captive bill signing in 1981. While we cannot celebrate in person as we normally would, we have found new ways to celebrate Vermont’s rich history in the captive space virtually and are excited to celebrate with the many tools we have available to us.
Reprinted from the December 2020 Risk Retention Reporter — Volume 34, Number 12